Part of Rao’s modus operandi is to catch religion and comics stories in the news as they happen and save them to a repository for later re-reading, analysis, and then write up. Of course, while that allows for cautious commentary and limited knee-jerk reaction, it also can cause a back-up of reportable items, sometimes having them fall completely off the radar.
In this case, however, there’s been another intriguing effect to this scheme: The backlog of reportable items is hinting at a trend.
That is, despite coverage over the last several months of, say, the Muslim Superhero Tournament on The Huffington Post or a politician claiming Batman is only for Judeo-Christians, still a massive amount of news concerning Islam and comics has amassed for Rao “backstage.” More than any other religion, Islam seems to have the most constant, news-worthy engagement with the medium, over any other faith or community circa 2013. For instance:
- The International Museum of Women featured the work of artist Katie Miranda as part of their “Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices” exhibition. The first part of her story “Tear Gas in the Morning” features semi-autobiographical protagonist “Barbara Silverman, a Jewish-American artist volunteering as an activist and human rights worker in the West Bank […transforming] from a naîve and idealistic volunteer trying to save the world, to a seasoned activist hardened by a year and a half of nonviolent resistance and human rights work in one of the world’s most complex conflict zones.”
- PRI’s The World spoke with Israeli cartoonist Uri Fink about the imprisonment of Mohammed Saba’aneh, a cartoonist for Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the Palestian Authority’s official newspaper. According to Cartoon Movement, he was released on July 1st, five months after his arrest and nearly three months after the PRI coverage.
- WorldNet Daily (now WND) profiled The Infidel creator Bosch Fawstin, a self-described “recovered Muslim,” on his character The Pigman opposition to Islam while superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman “bow” to it. Writer Marisa Martin also questions the motivations and depictions of Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa’s The 99 comics series (praised by U.S. President Barack Obama).
- In counterpoint to The Pigman, several pro-Muslim comics and stories have come to light in recent months, from the long-running Superhanallah Tumblr to the Muslim superhero Excalibur briefly becoming the living embodiment of England as Captain Britain. (Alex Hern of New Statesman, however, suggested that this was a troubling sign; the Islam and Science Fiction site was far more neutral in its reporting.) More recently, all eyes have been on the Burka Avenger, a Pakistan-based superhero comic, series, game, and animated cartoon. teaching kids by day and fighting evil by night with ninja-like books and pencils.
Response to the Burka Avenger is still unfolding, but, unquestionably, it will be met with a steady stream of new news stories on comics engagement with Islam globally, culturally, artistically, and politically. They are everywhere.
Rao wants to know: Does modern Islam have a special relationship with the comics medium?